We all know that there is nothing quite like a home-cooked meal to bring people together and form connections. When traveling to foreign places, it can be a challenge to really immerse yourself into a local culture unless you know the right people! What better way to remove boundaries than being invited into a local family’s home to share a delicious and typical homemade meal – sometimes even being invited to participate in the cooking!
One such family is that of Dona Miriam Adanis who invites
guests into her home in Tarcoles, a small town on the Pacific. Of course, you’re wondering just what savory
meals you might enjoy! Dona Miriam’s most famous recipe is a toss-up between
her seafood plate and fresh sea bass wrapped and cooked in banana leaves.
In addition, other favorites include “pinto con tortillas” and rice with
shrimp. She also has traditional clay oven to make pizzas as a back-up for
those not as enthusiastic to try local foods! The icing on the cake? Her “dulce de coco” or
“cajeta de coco,” of course! This sweet treat is made with condensed milk,
vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, lemon peel, and sugar – and best washed down with a
flavorful cup of Costa Rican coffee!
Worldwide Ecotours can arrange for our clients to enjoy a homemade meal in the home of one of our hosts. A great opportunity to learn how people in Costa Rica live and to get involved in the local culture.
The rainy season doesn’t mean it rains constantly. Usually it is sunny and clear in the mornings with rain in the late afternoons and early evening.
As a tour operator that offers tours to many world destinations, I try not to play favourites. But after two visits and a third in the planning stage, I love Japan. This country was on my bucket list for years before my first visit. Sometimes your preconceived notions don’t live up to expectations and you run the risk of being disappointed. Japan doesn’t disappoint.
What keeps me coming back? Here’s my short list in no particular order!
New Regulations for Machu Picchu: To assure the preservation of Machu Picchu, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism is considering implementing two shifts to visit the site: from 6:00a.m. to 12:00pm and from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. If this is to be applied, the regulation would take effect in January 2018. At this time no final decision has been made. Ongoing discussions continue with interested parties. We will keep you up-dated.
New Luxury Sleeper Train in Peru: Luxury travel operator Belmond has launched South America's first luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer. The train will travel along one of the highest rail routes on earth, traversing the Peruvian Andes from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa. Cabins come in suite/double, twin and bunk configurations, each with its own en-suite and shower. Two elegant dining cars serve fresh and seasonal dishes using locally sourced ingredients, while an observation car offers an open deck with spectacular views and a lounge car features music from a baby grand piano and invites you to sip Pisco sours while enjoying the scenery.
Inca Trail News: Due to the current closure of Winay Wayña campsite, Phuyupatamarca campsite has become busier. The authorities closed the camp as they need to do some stabilization work after the heavy rains. Km 104 Inca Trail has been affected by a landslide, so is currently closed. People booked on this are now taking the train two kilometres further, to KM106 and climbing up the trail from here to Winay Wayña. From here on the trail is the same through the Sun Gate. The route is now 8 km instead of 12km. We are told the campsites and trail return to normal sometime in June 2017.
Medical Insurance Required to Visit Ecuador: Beginning September 4, 2017, all travelers who enter Ecuador must have proof of public or private health insurance for their entire stay in the country. For those travelling to the Galapagos, a scanned copy confirming medical insurance may be required to book the Galapagos cruise. If the traveler can’t provide proof of medical insurance, the immigration official may deny entry into Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Ecuador and Yellow fever : Since February 10, 2017, it is mandatory for travelers coming to Ecuador from Brazil, Angola, Congo, or Uganda to be vaccinated for Yellow Fever, and to bring the respective International Vaccination Certificate.
Why not spend a few extra days exploring the wonderful cosmopolitan city of Buenos Aires. The city’s melting pot of cultures can keep any traveller busy for days. Learn more about the tango or street food, take a cooking course, or discover the city’s eclectic architecture, or uncover the psyche of porteños through their street art and graffiti. Below are some tour suggestions that will enhance a visit to Buenos Aires:
Central and South America are well-known for their natural wonders, amazing animals majestic ruins and adventure activities. Take a journey with me from A to Z as I list some of my favourite wonders.
The Ecuadorian Amazon jungle lodge that Worldwide Ecotours promotes is under threat and needs our support. A film by Benjamin Sadd outlines the plight of the Huaorani. Tropic Ecuador entered this film,’ Our Last Chance ,’ into the 2016 Adventure in Motion film contest sponsored by the Adventure Travel Trade Association.
Costa Rica’s green season has begun. It starts in May and runs to November. This is truly one of the best times to travel in Costa Rica. Yes it could rain…but usually it will be some showers in the afternoon, which lasts for a few hours. Usually, the mornings are sunny and nights are clear. This is the time of the year when the country is lush, green and alive. It is also one of the best times to see wildlife. The impact on wildlife is minimized during the green season because there are fewer tourists and food is plentiful.
In the green season, between July and October, Tortuguero beach is one of the most important nesting sites for the endangered green turtle. Historically these turtles were captured for turtle soup and other export products. In the 1960’s the green turtle population was perilously close to extinction. Then in 1970 Tortuguero National Park was established to protect the turtles. To insure the success of the project it was important to involve the villagers of Tortuguero who were hired as park guards to patrol the beach, discourage poaching and note any turtle activity. As ecotourism developed, villagers were trained to guide tourists on turtle watching excursions. This is truly an unforgettable experience. Observe a phenomenon that has been played out continually from prehistoric times. This is one of the main reasons why Tortuguero is so famous. You cannot witness this fascinating spectacle outside Costa Rica’s green season.
Used for centuries almost exclusively by Moroccan Berbers, in less than a decade, argan oil has hit the European and North American markets becoming the “new” high-end ingredient for culinary and cosmetic products.
Argan oil (a product of the argan tree) is rich in vitamin E, Omega 6, oleic acid, linocleic acid and is a mono-unsaturated fat. Cosmetically, it is used as a moisturizer for skin, hair and nails, either as oil alone or in soaps and creams. As a culinary oil, the flavour is distinctive, rich and nutty. It is used in salad dressing, for dipping bread, on couscous and flavouring porridge, but cannot be heated. Amlou – a paste made from almonds, argan oil and honey – is typically spread on toast.
The argan tree (Argania spinosa) is an ancient species native to southwestern Morocco. Only 8 to 10 metres high, it resembles a gnarled old olive tree but with thorns capable of lacerating anyone foolish enough to climb it. It lives 150 to 200 years, reaching fruiting maturity after 50 years.
The fruit, the size of a small apricot, has a tough husk covering pulpy flesh surrounding a very hard nut. The nut contains one (sometimes two or three) small, oil-rich kernels or seeds. The fruit takes over a year to mature, ripening and falling in June and July.
Extraction of argan oil is labour intensive. It takes 30kg of fruit and about 15 hours of labour to produce just one litre of oil. Argan fruits are first dried in the open air. Then the husk and fleshy pulp are removed. The nut itself is then cracked to obtain the oil-rich kernels. The kernel is broken open by tapping it between a large stone and a smaller hand-held one. Attempts to mechanize this process have been unsuccessful. Kernels to be used for food (i.e. culinary argan oil) are then gently roasted. After cooling, they are ground and pressed to obtain pure unfiltered argan oil. The oil is decanted into vessels. Leftover mash is used as cattle feed. Cosmetic argan oil is produced almost identically except the for skipping roasting step.
Traditionally, goats provided a much-appreciated labour-saving service: climbing the trees, eating the fruit, digesting the husk and leaving the kernels (minus the husk and the pulpy fruit) behind in their dung. These kernels were then collected from the goat dung, cleaned and processed. The goat’s involvement eliminated the first few steps of the process. Although undoubtedly organic, the goat stage of production is now frequently bypassed – in the interest of producing a “goat musk-free” taste or smell in the end product. But much of the rest of the process remains unchanged.
International demand has created a viable economy for local villages with 2 to 3 million people relying on it as a source of income. Many argan co-operatives have been established to provide economic and social benefits to rural women, offering them fair wages and hours to suit the needs of their family.
In Morocco, argan forests cover some 8,280 km² and are designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Their deep root systems enable them to colonize the desert fringes, making them a vitally important defense against desertification.
Sara Williams will be leading garden tours to Morocco (including to an argan cooperative), Turkey and Ireland in 2015. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org